Phase 2 of vaccine rollout in Mass. met with criticisms

Massachusetts has entered Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

As of Feb. 1, individuals aged 75 and older are now eligible to receive the vaccine, joining first responders and essential health care workers in the first stages of its rollout.

The state has also officially opened Fenway Park as its second mass vaccination site, which is expected to administer nearly 1,250 doses per day.

Stephen Merrick Jr., vice president of the Suffolk Democrats and a senator on Suffolk’s Student Government Association, was qualified to receive the vaccine during Phase 1 due to the emergency response nature of his job as a Harbormaster employee in Marshfield.

“My experience overall [with the vaccine] was great and pretty easy,” Merrick said.

Although Merrick was able to be vaccinated fairly quickly, the Suffolk student was disappointed that more essential workers, such as teachers and grocery store workers, were not ranked higher on the priority list.

“I think more people could have been classified in Phase 1,” he added.

Merrick is not alone with this concern. Teacher unions across Massachusetts are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to further advocate for their safety among their return to in-person classes.

Teachers were initially set to become eligible at the beginning of Phase 2, but were then moved further down the line.

“Our members, our students, and their families feel like pawns in a chess game — a game whose rules keep changing,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, in a statement from the organization.

According to the state’s vaccine distribution plan, essential workers not in the health care industry are expected to become eligible within the next few weeks.

Many also remain frustrated with the slow and complicated registration process. Difficulties with the online registration system continues to cause confusion among those trying to book appointments, especially for older citizens who may be less confident with the internet and have less access to online resources.

Via The Mass.gov website

Baker announced Friday that the state is creating a vaccine hotline to assist eligible citizens ages 75 and older with appointment registration. The call center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by dialing 2-1-1.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, Massachusetts now ranks 41st for nationwide vaccine administration. The delays and complications of vaccine services is widely surprising, given the state played a crucial role in the vaccine’s research and development.

Although online registration has slowed the process, Baker clarified that a significant part of the issue results from a limited supply of doses. As of Feb. 9, the state has received a total of 1,247,600 doses, according to the CDC. Only about 66% of doses have been administered.

Baker is urging individuals to remain patient.

“Everybody should understand that it may take several weeks in some cases to schedule an appointment,” Baker said at a Feb. 3 press conference.

He also said that he anticipates an increase in supplies and shipments over the next few months, which will improve the flow of distributions.

Further information regarding vaccine eligibility and registration in Massachusetts can be found here.

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